Building government's 'employer value': to entice the talented, dedicated workers the public sector needs, there's no substitute for brand-building.

Author:Ibarra, Patrick

It wasn't that long ago that the idea that a governmental jurisdiction or agency should be seen as a "brand," like Coca-Cola or Southwest Airlines, was an unnerving concept to many people in the public sector. In the past few years, however, most have come to embrace the idea, or at least to give it grudging acceptance. But while there are still some holdouts, you won't find many of them among government human-resources managers who face the formidable task of rebuilding public workforces in a post-recession era when vast numbers of baby boomers are heading for the retirement exits.

What's particularly daunting about today's public-workforce challenge is that it's not just a matter of filling empty seats. It's about enticing and retaining the talented, dedicated workers governments need now more than ever. That's where branding serves a crucial role. Every organization, public or private or nonprofit, has what's known as an "employer value proposition." The EVP is a unique set of values and attributes that communicates the organization's image--for better or worse--to its target audiences.

A crucial ingredient of the EVP is the spoken or unspoken exchanges between employers and employees that define the relationship. In its simplest form, the exchange represents the money paid for performing a job. In its highest, most strategic incarnation, it's the promise employers make to provide pay, benefits, career opportunities and a supportive work environment in exchange for an employee's commitment to bringing the organization's mission, vision and values to life.

As a result of changes in the workforce and thus the workplace, the EVP has experienced a dramatic change, particularly among the knowledge-based workers who constitute the bulk of government employment, away from the idea of a lifetime with one employer. Employees today often consider themselves free agents who choose to stay with an employer only so long as they are engaged in challenging and productive work.

Organizations that have invested time, effort and energy toward building a strong, positive EVP--essentially their human-resources brand--are finding that the benefits are greater than they may have thought, providing them with "a first-pick advantage" over other employers. Among local governments, Gilbert, Arizona ( deartments/human-resources), and San Mateo County, California (jobs.smcgov. org), are two that exemplify the effective use of a social-marketing...

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